Harvey deputy fire chief gets probation, fines in theft case _lowres

Michael Reason

A Harvey volunteer firefighter convicted last week of misdemeanor theft and filing false public records will spend a year on active probation, pay fines and do community service, a judge has ruled.

Michael Reason, deputy chief of Harvey Volunteer Fire Company No. 2, was sentenced Tuesday by 24th Judicial District Court Judge Glenn Ansardi, who said he took into account that Reason had no prior criminal history and that he paid the department back for the penis pump and pricey sunglasses that he originally invoiced as a hose coupling and fire goggles.

Reason stood trial last month along with Fire Company Chief Scott Berthelot, both accused by prosecutors of misappropriating hundreds of thousands in tax dollars and, in the case of Reason, making a trio of dubious purchases and trying to disguise their nature.

Lawyers with Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick’s Office pointed to lavish banquets, questionable convention reimbursements and other evidence of what they called profligate spending.

Berthelot was found not guilty on all charges.

But Reason was convicted on four counts related to two of his three purchases — the third being “medical supplies and sponges” that turned out to be a $147 fungal ointment.

While the judge didn’t find the ointment purchase unlawful, he took a dimmer view of the $290 Oakley sunglasses and the $288 penis pump from Fastsize LLC. Penis pumps can be used as a treatment for erectile dysfunction, but they often are marketed as a means to enlarge the penis.

Reason got two concurrent prison sentences, though both were deferred: six months on the two theft counts and one year for the two counts of filing of false public records. He’ll only have to serve time if he violates his probation.

He’ll pay $2,591 in court costs and fines and will have to do 40 hours of community service.

Prosecutors questioned more than $325,000 in department spending between 2007 and 2012, saying that $162,000 was spent over a four-year period on meals and entertainment alone. They said $72,000 spent on meals exceeded the department’s allowable limit.

Harvey Volunteer Company No. 2 once spent $6,700 to send five people to a convention in downtown New Orleans.

Attorneys for Berthelot and Reason countered that the public money that comes in for Fire Protection District No. 6 — about $2.8 million per year — becomes private once it enters the fire company’s coffers.

They said banquets and gifts for service were a crucial component of attracting and retaining volunteers, and that the money was all accounted for and spent according to the district’s bylaws.

On the charge of filing false records, the lawyers argued the documents related to Reason’s purchases were not actually public records and that the statute thus shouldn’t apply.

Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.